Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Under Attack

My computer,that is... A bad virus has destroyed...well...just about everything! And writing a post via cell phone or Kindle just isn't working for me. I'll be back in a day or two.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Bad-News-Bishops and Baseball

Such bad and sad news in the Church these days… Cardinal Burke sidelined and demoted; Bishop Blase Cupich appointed to Chicago… Well, these things are not really unexpected, are they? The Church is on such a steep downhill road now that we should all be paying close attention to the things Our Blessed Mother has been telling us would eventually come to pass, and we should all be engaged in prayer and penance.

A good friend of mine articulated some of my thoughts when he wrote me the following. I think he has hit the nail on the head!

Just as radical Franciscan poverty makes one "free" in the sense that you can't lose what you don't have, recognizing the full extent of takeover of the Church by "wicked bishops" should "free" us from false expectations. We all behave like good soldiers following chains of command and "running things up the ladder" when there are problems but, to the Enemy, we just look like a bunch of naive children! The Enemy never rests, and takes full advantage of his opportunities, unlike those of a more obedient stripe. For example, we've had two Popes, JPII and BXVI, who could have appointed bishops like themselves, and seriously impacted the implosion of the Church; but they didn't do that. They were both "nice" and "accommodating" and appointed bishops, and cardinals, who elected Pope Francis by an overwhelming majority. Pope Francis and his crowd have seized their opportunity and they are ruthlessly remaking the Church in their own image. They are not "playing nice." And that's what the enemy does.

So we are FREE to "do the right thing" because a) we already know that God wins in the end and 2) nothing anyone can do to us can change that. All we have to do is be willing to suffer "slings and arrows" (or death) and trust God. It might feel like we are doing something positive and constructive to write the pastor or bishop or nuncio – and it probably is the right thing to do – but to expect it to accomplish anything just sets us up for discouragement which, I have recently read, is one of the most serious "cancers" in the spiritual life. I'm not sure Pope Francis isn't thrilled when he hears reports of how much he upsets traditional Catholics! It means what he is doing is working!

So I've decided that it's both possible and necessary to laugh at our sorrows because, no matter what, God is still God, and He loved us into being to share His Life with us. We will shame our "leaders" with our obedience, we will shame our "leaders" with willingness to suffer their evil strategies, we will GIVE GLORY TO GOD by accepting what is certainly a lot less suffering that God Himself was willing to endure for us!

My friend also gave me a baseball analogy that I really like. I've never been a big baseball fan, but this analogy makes me more of one! This is a good way to look at the battle that is being fought by the Church Militant:

[In baseball] there is NO CLOCK and, no matter how far behind you are with two outs, nobody on, two strikes on the batter, in the bottom of the ninth, a comeback is possible within the very rules of the game we are playing! God wins, we already know this, and it can actually be exciting to contemplate how GLORIOUS will be the actions of God to bring about this, in human terms, highly improbable victory. It's like having the chance to read tomorrow's news today, where we read "God wins in AMAZING comeback in the bottom of the ninth!" But, today, we're still in the game, and we see that we are behind 83-0 going into the bottom of the ninth! If you'd had a chance to read tomorrow's paper today and saw the final result, wouldn't you drop everything to watch what would happen in the bottom of the ninth?!?!?!

So, in the Franciscan sense, "they can take away everything, but I've lost nothing, because I still have God, who is everything!" We will "obey our way to victory" because "the enemy" can't win no matter how successful it appears he is being. Who knows? We may, yet, see the scene from "Mr. Blue" where there's only a single priest left on the face of the Earth who finally gathers together all the "matter" he needs to say a Mass and, when he recites the words of consecration, he brings God back into the world, and God wins! There REALLY IS freedom in knowing that you can't lose. We might suffer, and I'm not that big a fan of suffering, but, in light of the promised victory, I pray I can do it just to be able to see this comeback.

This is the attitude I will strive for as well.

(By the way, “Mr. Blue” is a book available on Amazon, which was actually written about 1928, I believe. I have started reading it…interesting!)

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Saturday, September 20, 2014


It is my sincere belief that my daughter’s vocation is marriage. She’s been planning her wedding since she was about 10 years old, though she wasn’t really interested in finding a groom till much later! She has written papers about marriage for English classes, and she has done some reading just for her own preparation about making a marriage relationship “work”.

She was briefly engaged to a young man, but she realized immediately that she should not have accepted his proposal, and that relationship ended – for one as young as she was, it was a long-term relationship, which lasted almost 4 years. But in the end, he was not “the one”.

The problem is that where we live, there are very few young people to begin with, and even fewer of those are male, and even fewer of those are Catholic, and even fewer of those actually practice their faith. So my daughter had not had a Catholic boyfriend, and I was concerned about that. Sure, a non-Catholic boyfriend could convert at some point, even after marriage, as I did; but it would be better to start off with a good Catholic guy, I think!

So, I prayed and prayed and prayed...and I still pray and pray and pray. And after my daughter had a couple more non-Catholic-guy “experiences”, a thought came to my mind: I know a woman who has a private blog for the express purpose of Catholic “matchmaking”. I wrote to her, seeking to have her place my daughter’s info on her matchmaking blog. She was happy to oblige, but also suggested that my daughter could try “Catholic Match”; she said her own daughter had found her husband there! And I've heard one or two other stories of people I know who used these “matchmaking” sites with a positive outcome.

I didn’t actually think my daughter would go for it, but she did. I think she was a little tired of the barely-Christian boyfriends who never went to Mass with her. So she signed up, and had young men seeking her virtual company immediately.

You may have mixed feelings about these internet “dating” sites, and I did too. But this has been a wonderful experience for my daughter…and for me. It boosted my own faith tremendously – because I could see evidence that there really were some young men out there who at least claim to go to Mass weekly, who say their faith is important to them, and who actually talk some Catholic talk. And I saw my daughter’s faith increase, too, though I don’t know if she would put it that way. But I could see a light going on for her, too: "there ARE other young single people who actually go to Mass!" I think she thought she was the only one, because that's been her experience in her post-high-school years; the concept of "young single people at Mass" doesn’t happen in our parish. So this was an eye-opener for both of us.

And…she seems to have “found” one young man in particular who at least at the moment seems like a good match. They are communicating via FB messenger mostly, and they “skyped” last night. Thank God for the internet! This young man is in the service, and he is overseas – far, far away! His home, though, is only a few hours away from where we live.

I just cannot express how happy it makes me that my daughter now has easy access to Catholic contacts and potential suitors. She even commented to me that “It’s nice to be able to make Catholic jokes that the other person gets.” One young man had wished her a good night, saying, “Sleep with the angels, rise with the saints, and party with Pope Francis.” Well! I think he has a grasp on the reality of the Church’s current state!

And besides the spiritual benefits, what a difference it makes to think about the logistics of her wedding in the context of a Catholic groom! Believe me, this is a big relief to me!

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Seven Sorrows of Our Lady

I think I have mentioned that I have been practicing a devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows for some months now. My practice currently is to say an “Ave Maria” for several of the sorrows each time I enter the chapel to pray the Divine Office, briefly calling to mind each particular sorrow. At Laudes, I pray 3 Ave’s for the first 3 sorrows; at Prime, I pray an Ave for each of the next 4; at Terce, I pray 3 Ave’s in honor of Our Blessed Mother’s tears. At the other hours, I just pray one Ave before beginning.

The Seven Sorrows are:

1. St. Simeon’s Prophecy
2. The Flight into Egypt
3. The Loss of Jesus in the Temple
4. The Meeting of Mary and Jesus on the Way to Calvary
5. The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus
6. The Piercing of the Side of Jesus, and His Descent from the Cross
7. The Burial of Jesus.

Today, of course, is the feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It seems a fitting feast for the times…another innocent man has just been behead by ISIS, and the world still seems to be reluctant to take definitive action to mitigate the  persecution of Christians and the slaughter of innocent people of other religions as well. How sad Our Lady must be indeed, as she watches the continual disfigurement of the Body of Christ.

You can go online and find much more about the devotion of the Seven Sorrows, and I leave it to you to do so. But I thought I would also publish here the Litany of the Seven Sorrows; I found this online also, but I’m not sure where.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Litany of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows

While in captivity under Napoleon Bonaparte in 1809, Pope Pius VII wrote a litany to Our Lady of Sorrows. What follows is one translation of the original Latin.

Pray: Three Hail Mary’s in honor of the tears shed by Our Lady in Her Sorrows.

Hail, Holy Queen
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.

Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, have mercy on us.

Holy Trinity, One God, have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, pray for us*

Holy Mother of God,*
Holy Virgin of virgins,*
Mother crucified,*
Sorrowful Mother,*
Tearful Mother,*
Afflicted Mother,*
Forsaken Mother,*
Desolate Mother,*
Mother bereft of Thy Child,*
Mother transfixed with the sword,*
Mother overwhelmed with grief,*
Mother filled with anguish,*
Mother crucified in heart,*
Mother most sad,*
Fountain of tears,*
Vial of suffering,*
Mirror of patience,*
Rock of constancy,*
Anchor of confidence,*
Refuge of the forsaken,*
Shield of the oppressed,*
Subduer of the unbelieving,*
Comfort of the afflicted,*
Medicine of the sick,*
Strength of the weak,*
Harbor of the wretched,*
Calmer of the tempests,*
Resource of mourners,*
Terror of the treacherous,*
Treasure of the faithful,*
Eye of the Prophets,*
Staff of Apostles,*
Crown of Martyrs,*
Light of Confessors,*
Pearl of Virgins,*
Consolation of Widows,*
Joy of all Saints,*

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Spare us, O Jesus!
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Graciously hear us, O Jesus!
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us, O Jesus!

Look down upon us, deliver us, and save us from all trouble, in the power of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Imprint, O Lady! Thy wounds upon my heart, that I may read therein sorrow and love—sorrow to endure every sorrow for Thee; love to despise every love for Thine. Amen.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Impossible Vocations

I have been praying for several people recently, that they will correctly discern their religious vocations; and my petunias seemed to provoke some thoughts about that subject as well.

Petunias seem to be about the easiest thing to grow around here. These are all "volunteers" from last year. I didn't buy a single new plant, and I did nothing in terms of gathering seeds or planting. I did remove the old, dead plants, and then I just let things happen. When they started to grow, and I could identify them, I transplanted some from the crowded planter so the less crowded planters. I gave them some "Miracle-Gro" and plenty of water. There's a bunch more you can't see, around the corner.

Then there's the outlier: one petunia plant that got absolutely nothing, and is a bit removed from the others. It too is a "volunteer", growing in an unlikely place. This is the seamy underside of our yard - where the dogs play and the lawnmower is parked. 

That's just one plant. It was never intentionally watered, never received a single dose of "Miracle-Gro", and had no protection from the dogs. Yet it flourished.

What does all this have to do with vocations? Well, it's kind of twisted logic, I guess. But I thought about it in terms of things like diocesan vocations programs (some seem to have Miracle-Gro, others don't!), and having the right environment in which vocations can flourish (like a devout family, or having family members who have discerned religious vocations), and just in general having people around who encourage those who are doing the discerning.

But sometimes, a vocation just pops up out of nowhere. Maybe the person didn't have any background or training that would have brought them to a religious vocation. But God finds a way. As in the case of my outlier petunia, a seed is planted in an unlikely manner and in an unlikely place, but in bears fruit nonetheless.

Maybe none of the above makes much sense, but if nothing else, I guess I see it as a message of hope to myself.  A petunia has sprung to life in a place that is barren and dry, with no help from human hands, and it is thriving. If God can do that with a petunia seed, He can certainly take another environment that seems completely unsuitable (as some many parishes seem to be), and allow a vocation to take root, and even grow and flourish. 

 Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Sin and the Sacrament of Confession

This is a sort of rambling post, but what the heck. Sometimes (probably more often than not), I ramble.

I was thinking recently about the quandary non-Christian, non-Catholic people must find

themselves in when they have no recourse to the sacrament of confession.

Mostly I was thinking about this because of a particular young man my daughter knows. I don't think he has any religious upbringing at all, and he is certainly not Catholic. The two of them seemed a perfect match for each other in many ways, but he broke off the relationship after only a short period of "dating" (what young people call "dating" these days is not what it was when I was young, but that's another issue). He told her at one point that continuing on in the relationship would mean she would have to accept some things about his past that he wasn't proud of, and which he has not shared with her.

So...that made me think about the fact that he has sinned - as we all have, of course - and appears to have repented of that sin; he seems to have sincere regrets. But he is still, apparently, plagued by guilt. These past sins still haunt him. They define him. And he is afraid they will define him in the eyes of others, as well. The demons have found that this is an effective weapon against him, and they will continue to use it. And he has no clue how to overcome it - or even what the problem really is!

Now, many non-Catholic Christians deal with the issue of past sins by saying that they have confessed their sins to God, and they know that God forgives them. Of course, there is some truth in that. But it is only a partial truth, because the sacrament of confession gives us so much more than that personalized interpretation of God's forgiveness. 

I learned when I became Catholic that it was much more difficult to confess my sins to a real live person than to simply tell God I was sorry. And, of course, it's a sacrament! I thank God I became Catholic and am able to avail myself of that sacrament! In fact, it was the first thing I asked about, once I decided to take the step into the Church: could I confess my sins? I confessed everything I could remember for, lo, those many years of sinful living! It made a huge difference in my life. (Duh!)

It's part of the big picture of being a Catholic Christian, I guess. Without "religion", one is alone, isolated from God. Being a Catholic means you've got lots of company, lots of support - in Heaven and on earth! 

I sometimes wonder how people make it through life without supernatural faith.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Remaining Good Among the Bad

This exerpt was from the readings for Vigils for this past Sunday (the 12th after Pentecost, and the 1st Sunday of September):

From the Book of Moral (Reflections upon Job) written by Pope St Gregory (the Great.) Bk. i. ch. 1.
There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job. We are told where this holy man lived, that thereby we may gauge the worth of his bravery. Who knoweth not that Uz is a place in the countries of the Gentiles? The Gentile world had been so degraded and corrupted by sin, that they had ceased to know that they had a Maker. Therefore is it told us where Job dwelt, that it may redound to his praise that he was good in the midst of the wicked. It is not very praiseworthy to be good among the good, but to be good among the bad. For even as it is more grievous to be bad among the good, so is it right praiseworthy to have remained good among the bad.

When I read this, I thought about how much it seems to apply to our world today. “The Gentile world had been so degraded and corrupted by sin, that they ceased to know that they had a Maker.” Does that not seem to be what has happened today?! The slippery slope we’ve been on in this country for decades has become steeper and steeper, to the point that it seems we are about to fall off a cliff.

The moral compass of today’s “modern” society is broken. Some people try to use moral reasoning to discern good from bad, but they’ve been brainwashed by modernism and personalism to the point that they eventually fall back on the erroneous reasoning that “if it feels good, it must be good”.  Some of those who deplore the moral depravity they see around them still end up saying, “Who am I to judge?” As a society, we have lost sight of absolute right and wrong, and have fallen into all the traps and fallacies of moral relativism. People are confused, but all around them they hear others insisting that “it may be wrong for you, but it’s right for me.”

Pope St. Gregory the Great adds, “It is not very praiseworthy to be good among the good, but to be good among the bad.” And that is where good Catholics find themselves today. They must be found doing good among the bad. They must stick to their Catholic morals, follow their Catholic moral compass, form their consciences according to Church teaching.  
And they must act in accordance with that conscience, with those teachings. The ones who do so will suffer, as we have seen recently with the Catholic couple who would not host a same-sex wedding on their property, and were slapped with a fine and other punitive measure. They are not the only example, of course, and it is certain that more persecution is to come.

I guess when you look at the big picture, the history of Christianity for the past 2000 years, you can see that there is “nothing new under the sun”. It looks new, because the context is a little different, but the game is the same.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.